State needs law to address children left in vehicles

Published 6:48 pm Saturday, May 21, 2016

Mississippi desperately needs some consistency when it comes to filing criminal charges against parents or guardians who accidentally leave children unattended in vehicles.

Just recently, a father was charged with second-degree murder after his 8-month-old daughter died in his overheated car in northern Mississippi, the Associated Press reported.

Joshua Blunt, 25,  is in the Grenada County Jail and his bail has been set at $250,000, said Grenada Assistant Police Chief George Douglas.

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Blunt’s daughter Shania Caradine was found unconscious late Thursday afternoon in the car, which was parked outside a restaurant where Blunt was working, said Grenada County Deputy Coroner Jo Morman. Douglas said Blunt told police he had gone inside the restaurant and forgotten his daughter. He said police don’t know how long the child was in the car, AP reported.

Caradine is the second child to die in a hot car in Mississippi this month. Two-year-old Caroline Bryant was found dead May 11 in the back seat of her mother’s car after the mother forgot to drop her off that morning at a child care facility in Gluckstadt, AP reported. The mother, Amy Bryant of Brandon, returned to the child care facility thinking she needed to pick up her daughter, only to be told she had never dropped the child off. Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker called it a “tragic accident” and didn’t file charges, according to AP.

What makes the two cases different? Race? Economic status? Location?

Not filing charges because it’s a “tragic accident” doesn’t seem just. For one parent to face second-degree murder charges and another to face no charges is a poor excuse for justice.

The state should join the 20 others that have made it illegal to leave children alone in vehicles in at least some circumstances. At least then, the crime would be clear and applying the law would be more straightforward.